Fresh Cherry Crisp Recipe

This Cherry Crisp recipe is a quick, lazy, summer dessert and the first to go at every potluck, picnic, barbecue or Sunday dinner.  Simply stir together the cherry ingredients, stir together the topping ingredients (no cutting in butter!), sprinkle it over the top and bake! The cherries are enveloped in a divine self-saucing syrup (not watery or gummy like some recipes) while the topping bakes up chewy, buttery and SO crunchy thanks to my tips!

top view of cherry crisp recipe served with vanilla ice cream


Watch How to Make Cherry Crisp Recipe

You’ll love this Old Fashioned Cherry Crisp Recipe

  • PERFECT FILLING. Juicy, sweet, slightly saucy cherry filling that’s never gummy, balanced by a hint of lemon so it’s not overly sweet.
  • CRUNCHIEST TOPPING.  Chopped pecans, melted butter + chilling the topping before baking are the keys to the crunchiest topping!
  • QUICK AND EASY.  Simply stir the cherry filling ingredients, mix up the topping, and sprinkle it over the top of the filling and bake!
  • MAKE AHEAD.  The elements of the Cherry Crisp can be prepped separately, then combined when ready to pop in the oven for a stress-free dessert. 
  • DIETARY FRIENDLY.  No eggs and an easy gluten free flour swap make this recipe a favorite for everyone! 
cherry crisp recipe made in a pie dish with crunchy crispy topping with oats and pecans
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 Fresh Cherry Crisp Recipe Ingredients

for the cherries

  • Cherries: Use sweet cherries like Bing or Rainier. Wait until the cherries are ripe for the sweetest, deepest flavor. 
  • Cornstarch:  This acts as a thickening agent to prevent watery filling. It creates sweet, self-basting sauce that’s the perfect syrupy consistency without becoming gummy like flour. 
  • Lemon juice: Please use a fresh lemon because we also need the zest in the topping. The acidity balances the sweetness and brings the clean, cherry flavor forward.  
  • Sugar: Use granulated sugar to enhance the natural sweetness of the cherries.
  • Vanilla extract: Adds an extra oomph of flavor.  Use quality extract for the best flavor.
  • Almond extract: Cherries and almond are heavenly together. If you don’t have almond extract, just skip it.

How to prepare Cherry Crisp Fresh Cherries

This cherry pitter makes pitting cherries quick and easy for snacking and desserts like this!

up close of scooping up cherry crisp recipe showing the tender cherries

For the crisp topping

  • Flour: This helps bind the topping ingredients together.  Don’t attempt to use less flour or the topping will be greasy.
  • Old fashioned oats:  Please do not use quick-cooking oats or instant oats, they will be powdery and not bake up crispy.
  • Pecans: These are optional but divine. If omitting, increase the oats to 1 cup. Finely chop the pecans for for an evenly dispersed tantalizing crunch.
  • Brown sugar: This adds moisture and sweetness with a hint of molasses.  Use light brown sugar for best results so the molasses flavor isn’t overpowering.
  • Granulated sugar: Adds additional sweetness and balances the brown sugar.
  • Lemon zest: This balances the sweetness.
  • Butter:  The butter is melted in order to bind the ingredients together so the topping bakes as a separate unit.  Use unsalted butter so we can control the salt.  If you only have salted butter, reduce the salt in the topping.
  • Baking powder:  Just a pinch absorbs moisture and helps the topping clump and promotes a more golden, crisp, topping.
  • Salt: A must to enhances the flavor.
  • Cinnamon: This adds a subtle warmth to complement the bright filling.
top view of old fashioned cherry crisp fresh cherries in a bowl

Cherry Crisp Variations and Substitutions

  • Use tart cherries. Add an additonal 2 tablespoons of sugar to balance the flavors.
  • Swap fruit.  Mix or swap in strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, peaches, etc. Increase the cornstarch to 2 ½ tablespoons. See my strawberry crisp recipe.
  • Use honey.  Swap the sugar for the same amount of honey in the filling.
  • Swap flour. Use whole grain or white whole wheat flour.
  • Make it gluten-free.  Use gluten free flour 1 to 1 baking flour like Bob Red’s Mill. All the rest of the ingredients are gluten free.
  • Swap the nuts. Use chopped almonds instead.
  • Add coconut.  Add sweetened coconut to the filling or topping.
  • Make it Cherry Cobbler. Use the cobbler topping in my Peach Cobbler recipe. Use the serving arrows to reduce the servings to 6, which will automatically reduce the ingredients to fit the size of pan in this recipe.
  • Make vegan Cherry Crisp.  Replace the butter with vegan butter or coconut oil. 
  • Make healthier Cherry Crisp.  Use honey in place of the sugar and use white whole wheat flour and coconut oil in the topping.
up close of cherry crisp recipe with fresh cherries serve in a bowl showing how juicy the cherries are

How to make Cherry Crisp

This Cherry Crisp is practically a dump and stir recipe. The most time consuming part is pitting the cherries which can be done ahead of time. Let’s take a closer look at how to make it with step by step photos (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Step 1: Make crisp topping. Stir the topping ingredients together in a large bowl, then stir in the melted butter. Chill while you make the filling.
a collage showing how to make cherry crisp by mixing flour, oats, sugar and pecans together in a bowl, then stirring in melted butter
showing how to make cherry crisp recipe by combining the crisp topping ingredients together in a glass bowl
  • Step 2: Make the filling. Stir the pitted cherries, granulated sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla extract and almond extract together in a large bowl until evenly combined.
showing how to make cherry crisp by stirring the pitted cherries, granulated sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla extract and almond extract together in a large bowl until evenly combined.
  • Step 3: Assemble. Transfer the filling to a lightly greased baking dish and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the topping over the filling, breaking up any large chunks (you still want some small chunks).
a collage showing how to make cherry crisp recipe by adding cherries to a baking dish, then topping with crisp oat topping
  • Step 4: Bake. Bake uncovered, at 350°F for 35-45 minutes.
  • Step 5 Cool.  Remove the pan from the oven and let the dessert cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving so the filling has time to slightly cool and thicken up a bit.  The filling will continue to thicken as it cools.
how to make cherry crisp recipe by letting it cool after baking
up close of a spoon serving cherry crisp with fresh cherries showing how saucy it is

Tips for making the Best Cherry Crisp

  • Use a large enough baking pan. Use a deep dish pie plate, a 9×9 baking dish or an 8×11 baking dish  An 8×8 is too small and a traditional pie plate is not deep enough.
  • Use ripe cherries. Unripe cherries are not as sweet or richly flavored, and will not releases the desired juices as they break down.
  • Use a cherry pitter. This will make pitting cherries a breeze!
  • Thoroughly combine topping.   I have found the best way to mix the butter into the topping is to start with a spatula then use my hands to ensure the flour, pecans and oats are covered with the butter.
  • Chill topping. Make the topping first and pop it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes or make it ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to use. This will make your topping extra crispy!
  • Prevent a burnt topping.  I never have the problem of a burnt topping –but if it’s your first time making this Cherry Crisp recipe, keep an eye on it to be safe.  If the topping starts to brown too quickly, lay a piece of foil over the top and bake on.
  • Watch for a bubbling filling.  As discussed, only remove the Cherry Crisp from the oven once you see the syrup bubbling up all around the edges of the pan. 
  • Serve warm. This recipe is delicious cold or at room temperature, but is exponentially better served warm, so plan according.
showing how to serve cherry crisp recipe with crispy oat topping

Cherry Crisp FAQS

What is a Cherry Crisp? 

A cherry crisp is similar to an apple crisp, but made with cherries!  Cherry Crisp is a baked cherry dessert made with pitted cherries combined with sugar and cornstarch that bake up soft in a self-saucing glaze topped with a crispy and crunchy topping made with flour, oats, sugar, butter, and sometimes nuts. It is one of the easiest desserts to make because it doesn’t require any special equipment, mixing or chilling.  It’s a pit, stir and dump dessert that gets assembled and baked all at once.


Cherry crisps, crumbles, and cobblers are similar desserts but with varying toppings. In a cobbler, the topping is biscuit-like, in a crisp, the topping bakes up crisper, cruncher, lighter and more cohesive.  In a crumble, the streusel crumb topping is more crumbly and less crispy.  The textural differences come down to the technique and the ingredients:

Cherry Crisp: Topped with an oat streusel topping typically made with flour, sugar, oats, melted butter and sometimes nuts. The oats crisp up during baking making the topping crisper and the melted butter creates a more cohesive/less crumbly topping that bakes as a unit instead of crumbles.
-Cherry Crumble: Topped with an oat-less crumb topping.  The chilled butter is cut into the flour and sugar until it’s sandy/pebbly to create a streusel before being sprinkled over the fruit before baking.  The lack of oats means the crumble streusel bakes up less crispy, crumblier and cakier. 
-Cherry Cobbler: Topped with a biscuit or cake-like topping made of dough dropped directly onto the fruit to create a “cobbled” effect.  The topping is soft on the inside and crispy on the outside.

Why use melted butter in Cherry Crisp topping?

In crumble recipes, cold butter is cut into sugar and flour to create a dry, powdery streusel topping that melts into a crumbly, only slightly crispy blanket when baked. When the fruit releases juices, much of the powdery topping is washed into the filling.

To create a sturdier topping melted butter is incorporated directly into the flour, oatmeal and nuts to bind all the ingredients together so it bakes as a separate entity and doesn’t wash away.  Bonus, this method is super easy!

Why is my cherry crisp runny?

There are two culprits to a runny fruit crisp:

1. First, the cherries can be too ripe. Because the cherries are already breaking down, they will release more juices.
2 Second, the crisp wasn’t baked long enough. Take care to bake the filling until bubbling-hot before removing it from the oven to ensure the cornstarch is cooked enough to thicken the filling. 

How do you thicken cherry crisp?

1. The cherries need to be tossed with plenty of cornstarch before baking.  The cornstarch will thicken the juices while baking and prevent a runny filling.
2. Bake until you see the filling vigorously bubbling up before pulling it out of the oven. This means the cornstarch is fully activated and has thickened the filling.

Do I have to use cornstarch in Cherry Crisp recipe?

Thickening the filling is necessary because cherries release juice when cooked.  This is to our advantage because the juices mingle with the sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and cornstarch to create a sweet, self-basting sauce that’s the perfect consistency without becoming gummy. Without cornstarch, the juices would create a watery filling.

How do you thicken Cherry Crisp filling without cornstarch?

You may also thicken the filling with double the amount of flour.  This, however, is more likely to produce a gummy filling.

Can you overcook Cherry Crisp?

Yes.  The longer you cook the dessert, the more broken down the cherries will become, resulting in a chunky jam-like consistency, instead of cherries enveloped in syrup. You also need to take care to not burn the topping or the whole fruit crisp will taste burnt!

How long to bake Cherry Crisp? How do I know when it’s done?

It can be tricky to know when a fruit crisp is done because you can’t see the filling.  Bake the dessert for 35-45 minutes at 350 degrees F.  When it’s done, the topping should be lightly golden without any wet spots and the cherry juices should be bubbling up around the edges of the pan.

Does Cherry Crisp need to be refrigerated?

Fruit crisps do not need to be refrigerated for up to 2 days so this cherry crisp is perfect to bring to your next potluck, picnic or barbecue.  Still, I like to refrigerate the dessert in order to prolong its life.  Store leftover Cherry Crisp for up to 2 days on the counter or 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.

up close of cherry crisp recipe served with ice cream




©Carlsbad Cravings by

how to make cherry crisp recipe by letting it cool after baking

Cherry Crisp with Fresh Cherries

This Cherry Crisp recipe is a quick, lazy, summer dessert and the first to go at every potluck, picnic, barbecue or Sunday dinner.  Simply stir together the cherry ingredients, stir together the topping ingredients (no cutting in butter!), sprinkle it over the top and bake! The cherries create a divine self-saucing syrup (not watery or gummy like some recipes) while the topping bakes up chewy, buttery and SO crunchy thanks to my tips!
Servings: 8 -10 servings
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

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  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (NOT quick oats)
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, optional (increase oats to 1 C if omitting nuts)
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted


  • Prep: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8×11 baking dish, 9-inch square or round baking dish or 9-inch deep pie plate. Set aside.
  • Topping: Add all the topping ingredients to a large bowl EXCEPT the butter and stir until combined. Pour in the melted butter and stir with a spatula to combine then use your hands as needed to combine. Transfer to the freezer while you prep the filling (can be frozen up to 30 minutes, then refrigerate as needed).
  • Filling: Add the Cherry Filling ingredients to a large bowl and stir until evenly combined. Transfer filling to the prepared baking dish (including any juices) and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle the topping over the filling, breaking up any large chunks (you still want some small chunks).
  • Bake: Bake uncovered, at 350°F for 35-45 minutes, until the topping is golden and the juices are bubbling vigorously around the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla and extra cinnamon if desired.



Prep Ahead

I do not suggest assembling the Cherry Crisp ahead of time because the cherries will macerate (soften and release juices), resulting in a watery filling and a soggy topping.  You can, however, prep everything except adding the sugar to the strawberries.  Here’s how:
1. Pit the cherries up to 1 day ahead of time and refrigerate.
2. Combine the cherries with the filling ingredients, except the sugar. Cover and refrigerate for up to one day.
3. Prepare topping according to directions.  Cover and refrigerate.
4. When ready to bake, stir the sugar into the filling and transfer to the pie dish. Add the topping and bake per recipe directions.

To Store and Reheat

  • To store:  Refrigerate for 3-4 days. Cherry Crisp is the very best fresh from the oven because the crisp is the crunchiest.  You can certainly enjoy leftovers, but the topping will start to soften as soon as it is refrigerated. 
  • To reheat: Reheat the baking dish uncovered at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until heated though.  The microwave won’t get the topping as crispy as the oven To microwave, transfer a portion to a microwave safe plate. Microwave for 30 seconds then at 15 second intervals until warmed through.    

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  1. Erinn says

    Delicious !! I love this crisp recipe, I am pretty certain this will be my go-to crisp recipe- just in time for summer with all the fresh fruit riping. We pick a berry called thimbleberry and it’s a tart berry but so tasty. A flavor that is so unique. This recipe would be amazing using thimbleberries. I made it tonight using fresh tart cherries from my parents cherry trees and it was perfect. Thanks for sharing. !
    P.S. I think this would also be very tasting using huckleberries.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much, Erinn, I am so happy this is your new “go-to crisp recipe”! I’ll have to try thimbleberries sometime! 🙂

  2. Debi says

    Could you sub almond flour for the AP flour?

    • Jen says

      I haven’t personally tried it, but I think it should work great. Enjoy!

  3. Stephanie Edrington says

    Hi! I’m making this now and it looks amazing! Quick question for next time though, should the cherries be weighed before or after pitting? Thank you for the recipe!

      • Stephanie Edrington says

        Thanks so much! The recipe turned out perfect! My whole family loves it. I will definitely make this again (and again!)

        • Jen says

          I am thrilled this did not disappoint! Thank you so much, Stephanie, I’m so glad this will be a repeat!

  4. Mitch says

    This is the best Cherry Crisp I have ever eaten. My granddaughter pitted the cherries, missed a pit. While eating it, I won, found a pit. I cracked my tooth in half, pulled the pit from my mouth and continued to finish the desert.

    This will be a keeper in our home. I’ll pit the cherries next time….

    • Jen says

      Oh no! So sorry to hear about your tooth, but so pleased you loved this Cherry Crisp regardless!! Thank you, Mitch!

  5. Andrea says

    Hi! Can this be made with frozen cherries?

    • Jen says

      Hi Andrea, I haven’t personally tried it, but it should work great, just make sure to thaw them first and pat dry. Please let me know how it turns out!